What is a Search Engine Anyway?

what is a search engine

Image Source: Giphy

Before we get into how to boost your traffic through search engine optimization, let’s first talk about search engines themselves.

What the heck are search engines?

Although most people discuss search engines as one thing, what is commonly referred to as a search engine is actually made up of 3 core parts:

  1. The crawler
  2. The index
  3. The search engine

1. The Crawler

crawlerImage Source: Giphy

First, the “crawler” is a computer program that travels through the web, robotically clicking on every link it can possibly find. Search engines use crawlers to fill up the “index” and understand the entirety of content that exists on the web.

The best way to understand this is to try it out yourself.

So, please take a break from this lesson and click THIS LINK (I freaking hate spiders by the way).

Then, click every link on that page.

Then, click every link on the pages you find.

Come back here and let your mind explode by thinking about the number of links clicked by the robots that go out and “crawl” the entire internet! They do this 24/7 across the whole web.

Can you imagine having to do this by hand? Yikes!


2. The Index

indexImage Source: Giphy

Second, the index is the result of the crawling. If you went through the exercise above and recorded each URL you visited in a spreadsheet, making a giant list, you have just created an “index.”

That’s all that the index is.

It’s simply a giant list of all of the pages that the crawler has found.

Can you imagine how big that spreadsheet is??

According to WorldWideWebSize.com, that spreadsheet at Google is around 2.5 Billion (with a “B”) lines long.


3. The Search Engine

brainImage Source: Giphy

Finally, we get to the search engine – the brains behind finding things on the web.

This is the actual meat and potatoes of differentiation among search providers and it’s the most important part of the trifecta. This is where the algorithms involved with search engine optimization exist.

This is like a mega matchmaker that evaluates the data in the index and sorts them all in order of its opinion according to what you search.

This is actually why Google has 67% of the market share… because their search engine actually helps you find things. Other search engines of yesteryear did a fairly decent job, but at the end of the day, consumers choose to use Google because their search engine sorts through the index better than anyone else to find the one piece of content you’re looking for.


Putting It All Together

putting it togetherImage Source: Giphy

These three parts complete a two-part process to reveal a search engine’s opinion of the pages of the web:

Part 1: Indexation

The crawler clicks on every link on the web and records its findings in the index, then

Part 2: Ranking

The search engine sorts the contents of the index, based on what its opinion is most relevant to the search query (what the person typed into the search box).

This sorting operation is done based on certain criteria I collectively refer to as ACE…


So, what does this mean for business?

money businessImage Source: Giphy

To use this information for the sake of bringing in more revenue for your company, you must begin the process of optimizing your website to improve the search engine’s opinion of your site, you must appeal to both of the processes above.

If you do so, you will begin to rank better in search engines, therefore acquiring more traffic to your website and more conversions.

To do this, simply remember the word “ACE”.

“ACE” stands for Architecture, Content, and Endorsements.

Architecture helps out with the first process, the “indexation.”

Both Content and Endorsements help out with the second process, the “ranking.”

Improve your site in one, or preferably all, areas of ACE and you should expect to see improved ranking, which leads to traffic, which leads to revenue.

Note: Tactics have changed over time, but the strategy hasn’t. And no, the strategy is not ranking higher, the strategy is providing the real people who are described in your buyer personas with the information they need when the need it.